Lille striker Rafael Leao has been linked with a possible move to Wolves after becoming the latest client of agent Jorge Mendes, who has firm connections at Molineux.
Portuguese outlet Correio da Manha reported that Wolves were among several clubs from around Europe showing an interest in the 20-year-old, with Mendes recently becoming his agent.
According to Correio da Manha, the Serie A trio of AC Milan, Juventus and Inter have all expressed an interest in the Portugal underage international, with Valencia bidding €35million (£31.4m) for him.
Mendes’ Gestifute agency also represents Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo and players Ruben Neves, Diogo Jota, Rui Patricio and Joao Moutinho.
Leao had only played five first-team games for Sporting Lisbon before moving to Lille last summer and he enjoyed a fine year with the Ligue 1 outfit, scoring eight goals and providing two assists in 26 appearances. With his total game-time amounting to 1,382 minutes, that equates to a goal per 172.75 minutes and an assist per 691 minutes.
An ESDF Analysis scouting report highlighted his raw pace and his habit for attacking space between opposition defences, as well as his clever link-up play in which he routinely drops deep when it is favourable to do so.
The 20-year-old has had some ringing endorsements in the embryonic years of his professional career. Lille president Gerard Lopez called him “the Portuguese Mbappe” [via Goal.com], while Sporting Lisbon youth coach Tiago Fernandes told L’Equipe that Leao was an even better player at youth level than Cristiano Ronaldo [via Goal.com].
Those lofty comparisons are glowing words of praise, but how does the Lille striker compare with Wolves duo Jota and Raul Jimenez?
The Mexico striker scored 17 goals and provided eight assists from 3,550 minutes of action, averaging a goal per 208.82 minutes and an assist per 443.75 minutes.
Jota found the net 10 times and supplied seven assists in 2,630 minutes last season, which works out at a goal per 263 minutes and an assist per 375.71 minutes.
With more effective scoring ratios than Jota and Jimenez in terms of goals per minute, Leao certainly seems capable of adding a potent threat to Wolves’ attack.
His ability to play in a classic centre forward role as well as drop deep to link up the play could allow him to operate either alongside or just behind Jimenez, while his occasional appearances as a right-sided attacker might enable Jota to take up a familiar left-sided role if Nuno wishes to employ a three-man forward line.
Leao offers a genuine scoring threat and his mix of qualities should allow Nuno greater tactical flexibility up front. He could be an excellent signing for Wolves not just because of his own attributes, but also for how Nuno’s attack could be easily arranged to fit him in while not overly discommoding Jimenez or Jota.
Wolves fans, would you like to see Leao being signed by your club? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!
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